Interior Design Masters with Alan Carr review – a home makeover show you'll love to hate

Figcaption Interior Design Masters With Alan Carr Review A Home Makeover Show Youll Love To Hate
Posted at: Author: Rain TV UK

Interior Design Masters with Alan Carr (BBC Two) is a Marmite programme, presented by a Marmite presenter. Some will loathe the dismal, shoddy, derivativeness of it all – it is Changing Rooms meets The Great British Bake Off, but so much worse than either show – and find themselves permanently incensed by the sidelining of expertise in favour of amateur cock-ups, as 10 aspiring interior designers compete to be the last one standing over a poorly conceived and badly executed project. Others will love it, for almost exactly the same reasons, except they will see it as a joyous celebration of raw talent with an invigorating competitive twist, without which there is no meaning to life anyway. You pays your money, I guess – albeit forcibly as this is a BBC production – and you takes your choice.

Normally, I am firmly in the “loathe” camp. This time round, however, perhaps because we are living in such strongly flavoured times that my brain-palate has become scrambled, I found myself swinging wildly between the two. The opening episode of the second series saw the wannabe masters paired up and required to decorate a bedroom and a living room fit for a new-build show house in Oxford. As usual, the action shots as they set to work sketching, paint-mixing and pointing are interspersed with emetic individual interviews, during which the participants say things such as: “I will always base my decisions on my heart,” and, “I’m a good designer because I know what I like and have an eye for things other people don’t normally notice,” and, “I’m going to put this chair in the sink because I’m very into chairs in sinks.” OK, not quite the last one, but give it time.

Most of the contestants do not appear to have been picked for their confiding warmth or charm. Or unreprehensible haircuts. But we stagger on … As ever with these things, you find yourself sucked in. I mean – you’ve gotta hang on to see how Barbara’s ambitious room divider will turn out, haven’t you? To say nothing of the growing animus between her and her design partner as she bogarts the carpenter. And are we supposed to have NO feelings about Paul’s decision to cover every wall in – I don’t know what it is, really. I want to call it “man-grass wallpaper”. You’ll just have to see for yourselves.

Wider philosophical questions present themselves. Such as how much of your personality should you seek to inject if you are a pink-haired, self-confessed maximalist who loves gold and art deco and are tasked with – I repeat – decorating a show house in a suburban Oxford new-build for young couples and commuters? How much, really, should each of us seek to be known through our work? Should we even seek a legacy? Especially if it’s going to be a man-grass wallpaper box?

Proceedings, and any growing fondness for them, are briefly interrupted by the advent of Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen – the high priest of Changing Rooms and channeller of all late-90s cultural-aesthetic vibes himself. But after the initial shock, it’s not so bad. The effortful show-pony shtick is less, and together with the fantastically fearsome and competent series judge Michelle Ogundehin (former editor-in-chief of Elle Decoration magazine), some actual insight into design inveigles its way into the programme for moments at a time.

In the end, of course, the fascination of seeing acts of creation take place will always win out. Especially if they are – as an astonishingly and cheeringly high proportion of these first-round challenges turn out to be – absolutely gopping. Three cheers for lovely John, then, whose painted evocation of a four-poster bed was as stylish and inviting as it was clever. He is safely through to the next stage.

The irrepressible message of all such shows is simple – you’ve either got it, or you haven’t. You can be taught a few tricks of the trade, sure. Don’t put chairs in sinks, don’t buy unpaintable wood if you’ve got to paint it, do provide some kind of window covering in a room dedicated to people sleeping (the last two are taken from life – I thought Michelle was going to defenestrate the perpetrator of the latter crime). But you can’t be taught style and you certainly can’t be taught flair. It’s wonderful how immutable that truth is, even if everything that surrounds the conveyance of it is, basically, a mess.

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